3 B’s you need to check out when you’re menopausal

As soon I told my doctor I hadn’t had my period for over a year we began the conversation about what tests I should think about now that I was entering the final journey of my post post pubescent body…menopause (I am lucky to have an MD that is kinda on the ball with womens health, but I know that’s not the case for everyone, so I hope this article can help).
 
We first started with some basic blood work to check out my vitamins, minerals, thyroid function, blood glucose levels and hormone levels, ensuring that everything was working “normally” and I was fully optimized. Then we spoke about 3 areas that we may want to test as I travelled through menopause, and the importance of these if there was a family history!
 
But before I go into that I just want to take a brief step back and talk about why it’s important to get bloodwork done at this stage of the game.

Do you know what the 3 B's are yet?

It’s very important to check in with your practitioner because there’s been a lot of changes in your body thanks to the drop in your hormone. Until things level out and your body figures out how to manage your new “normal” you may still feel the nagging symptoms of perimenopause including tiredness, feeling emotional, nightsweats, disturbed sleep etc and this is the reason blood work can help give you and your practitioner some clarity. For most women getting blood drawn and tested in Canada is easy to do and often free.

Your blood tests are going to indicate where you are at that very moment in time, a little snapshot of your physiology. Are you low in vitamin B12 or vitamin D? Is your thyroid out of whack or do you have an autoimmune condition like Hashimotos Thyroiditis? What’s your blood glucose levels like? Once you have clarity then you can work with a practitioner to create a healthy eating plan which may include adding supplements where needed (don’t just take supplements because you heard they were good for you…take supplements because you need it)

Now back to our 3 Bs…you’ve probably figured out what they are already, hover here to find out what they are:
BREASTS
BONES
BOWELS

Why should we think about your breast health through menopause?

Last year we had a wonderful guest speaker join us, Dr. Melinda Wu from the Womens College Hospital in Toronto to talk about our breast health, what to look for, follow and observe. (For those in the ALL In membership you’ll be able to watch this recording within your portal).

There’s been a lot of changes to your hormone production and uptake as well as other lifestyle and genetic factors that may create changes in your breast tissue and it’s important to address any changes as soon as possible.
 
One of Dr Wu’s key take aways is that “we should all have a good understanding of our bodies as they carry us through life”, so talk to your friend, mom, sister or practitioner if something doesn’t seem right. Check in with your body by feeling around the breast tissue for any bumps or lumps – check out this self exam.
 
If you’re close to, around or just past 50 it’s time to think about booking a mammogram (which is an X-ray test) or an ultrasound to see if there are any abnormalities in the breast tissue you can’t feel. As overwhelming or as daunting as this may seem, it is a good way to help ensure that your breast health is good, especially if you have a family connection to breast cancers.

Next B on the list…our BONES!

I’ve been waiting to discuss this topic for awhile because it’s such an important one for us women going through menopause. Don’t wait till your 70 to get your bone density checked, by then you’ve probably gone through a lot of bone loss. As soon as you enter perimenopause or at least in the first year of menopause you need to know what your bone density is like. Without estrogen we begin to see significant bone loss in the first 5 years of menopause, so find out what your baseline is before you hit your golden years. We hit our peak bone building by 30 and from then we begin to lose bone density.

According to Dr Susan Brown estrogen loss is not the only reason for our bone loss, other factors may include poor mineral intake/absorption, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress and excess inflammation.

Taking care of your bones will include eating a healthy whole foods diet, packed with leafy greens, figs, prunes, molasses, fish and organic tempeh/tofu for a boost in vitamins and minerals. Include weight bearing exercises to strengthen your muscles, improve your balance and load the bones to help keep the quality of your bones in good shape.

This is me getting a bone density scan

The final B is our BOWELS!

Our bowels act as the internal plumbing for our body, eliminating water and waste from our food as well as dead cells, organic microbes, used hormones etc. Fibre from our fruit, grains and vegetables help to provide bulk for the stool to form and move. 

Why do many women get constipated through menopause?

You are often considered constipated if you have less than 3 bowel movements a week, but I have spoken to many women who find if they don’t have a bowel movement at least every other day it is very uncomfortable. One answer for slow bowels is weak pelvic floor muscles, which may have started after having children, especially if you had multiple kids or hard pregnancies.

Another answer for slow bowels through menopause is the loss of estrogen. Studies have found that the reduction of hormones such as estrogen can play a large roll in slow transit time and decreased bowel movements.

Finally, lack of fibre in our diet can have a large influence in our regular bowel movements, so include fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet as well as sipping water throughout the day.

No one should feel sluggish or weighted down by slow bowels movements, so work with a practitioner if you need help to get things going again. Remember that when you move, things within your body move and when you let go of things in your life often your bowels will let go as well! 

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About the Author
Cindy Willems

Cindy Willems

Cindy is the owner/creator or My Fit Over 50. She is a registered acupuncturist, certified Pilates instructor, holistic nutritionist and educator. She takes a holistic approach to achieving whole body health and she believes that it is important to keep challenging the body and mind safely and efficiently as we age. Cindy also has a busy clinic called Women's Health Centre in Toronto, Ontario.